How To Hike The Appalachian Trail (Find OUT)

There are a lot of things you have to think about before embarking on a journey of this magnitude. 

From preparing your body and mind for the trip, to making sure you have all the right gear and food, it’s not an easy feat. 

But don’t let that scare you away: hiking the Appalachian Trail is definitely worth doing! We’ve put together this list of tips that will help you prepare for your adventure no matter how long it takes or how far you go.

Appalachian Trail Basics: Should You Thru-hike With

Sure, here’s a takeaway table for the article:

The Appalachian Trail is a 2200-mile hiking trail that stretches from Georgia to Maine
Thru-hiking the trail typically takes 5-7 months
Proper gear and preparation are key to a successful hike
Safety should always be a top priority on the trail
Resources such as guidebooks and online forums can be helpful for planning and preparation

Prepare For The Trail’s Length

A: The AT is 2,190 miles long and takes most hikers five to seven months to complete.

B: While you can start the trail in Georgia or Tennessee, most people begin their journey at Mount Katahdin in Maine.

C: If you decide to hike all 2,190 miles of the Appalachian Trail, be sure to prepare for your own safety, as it’s not possible for another person or public safety agency to monitor your every move on an extended wilderness journey like this one.

When packing for a multi-day hike, it’s important to consider every item carefully, as each piece of gear should be lightweight and functional. Check out our guide on packing your hiking backpack the right way to learn about the best techniques for staying organized and comfortable on the trail.

Plan For The Weather

The Appalachian Trail can be a dangerous place, and the weather is no exception. Weather can change at a moment’s notice, and hikers should always be prepared for the unexpected.

Hikers should always carry enough water to last them through any period of time without access to water sources such as streams or springs.

The sun is more intense in some areas than others, so it’s important to wear sunscreen throughout your entire hike.

If you’re hiking during winter months (November through March), remember that temperatures will be colder than usual—and may even dip below freezing!

When walking through snow or ice, make sure you have traction devices on your shoes or boots so that you don’t slip or fall off of cliffs.*

Buy Good Gear

The Appalachian Trail is a strenuous hike, so it’s important that you have the right gear. You’ll want to make sure you have a pack, tent and sleeping bag that are comfortable, durable and easy to use.

If your backpack weighs too much or doesn’t fit right, it will be incredibly challenging to carry on the trail. 

The same goes for your sleeping pad if it’s too thin or small, you might find yourself waking up sore in the morning from lack of support or comfort.

You may also want to invest in some good rain gear before starting a thru-hike because thunderstorms can come quickly on the AT during certain times of year (and sometimes even during other months). 

A good poncho will keep water out of your clothes as well as give protection from lightning strikes and falling branches when trees are whipping around in high winds caused by thunderstorms!

Whether you’re planning a short day hike or a multi-day trek, packing your backpack properly can make all the difference in terms of comfort and convenience. Check out our expert advice on backpack packing to learn about the best techniques for staying organized and prepared on the trail.

Train For The Hike

The second most important thing you need to do is train.

Hiking the Appalachian Trail takes a lot of endurance, and training will help you get that endurance. 

You should train in a variety of different weather conditions, on different terrains, with heavy packs and light packs, and with one leg carrying a heavier pack than the other leg. 

Be sure to carry only small amounts of water during your training hikes so that you’re forced to ration what little water you have (just as it would be on the trail).

Be Prepared For Your First Few Days

The first few days of a thru-hike are the hardest, but they also set the tone for the rest of your journey. 

You’ll be tired, sore and nervous as you leave civilization behind and enter into a world where every aspect of your hike relies on your own preparation and physical ability. 

You will have to navigate new terrain with no real guidebook available to tell you what to expect but don’t let this intimidate you!

Even if you’re not an experienced hiker yet, these first few days may still be doable for you. If this is your first time hiking long distances or if it’s been a while since last time out on trail (it doesn’t matter if it was yesterday), there are certain things that everyone should keep in mind before setting off from Springer Mountain:

Hiking is a great way to get active and spend time in nature, but it’s important to build up your endurance and strength gradually to avoid injury. Check out our pro tips on how to train for hiking to learn about the best exercises and techniques for getting in shape for your next big adventure.

Do Your Research

Research the AT (Appalachian Trail)

If you’re going to hike the Appalachian Trail and survive, it’s important that you do your research first. This means knowing how to research and how much time this will take. 

The more prepared you are for your journey, the more likely it is that everything will go smoothly. 

There are a number of online resources available to help prospective hikers learn what they need without having to drive across country or fly into Maine just to get answers!

Know where you’re going

The first step in researching any trip is knowing where exactly you’re headed before doing any other work.

Once again: don’t forget about safety! If something looks sketchy or dangerous on Google Maps but still appears like an excellent hike when viewed through satellite images instead of street view mode… don’t go there!

Consider A Shuttle Service

If you’re taking a shuttle service, consider the following:

Could you arrange to be dropped off at the end of your hike and picked up at the beginning? Some shuttle services offer this option.

Are there shuttles available in both directions? If not, could you arrange for someone back home to pick up your car and drive it to where you are staying or camping in between trips?

Hiking is a great way to explore new places and get some exercise, but if you’re new to the sport, it can feel a bit intimidating to get started. Check out our guide on hiking for beginners to learn about the basics of hiking, from choosing a trail to packing your backpack and setting out for your first adventure.

Figure Out If You’re Going To Tent Or Stay In Shelters

Tents versus shelters is another decision that you’ll need to make early on. The choice between the two is largely dependent on your comfort level, as well as how safe you want to feel in the middle of nowhere.

Tents offer more space and privacy, which can be great if you’re traveling with someone who isn’t a close friend or family member. 

You also have more control over what goes into your tent whereas with a shelter, you’re at the mercy of whatever food and supplies are already there and it’s much easier to leave some extra clothes behind at camp if they get dirty or lost!

On the other hand, shelters often have better weather protection than tents do (especially when they include an enclosed sleeping area), so this is something else to consider when deciding between the two options. 

If there’s ever a chance that bad weather could move in during your trip then shelters provide an extra layer of safety against wind gusts and raindrops pelting down from above.

Don’t Forget About Food

Eating on the trail is a very important part of your hike. You will need to pack enough food to feed yourself, or you will have to purchase it along the way. There are many options for eating:

Buying food from grocery stores at towns and cities along the trail, which can be expensive depending on how much you are buying

Dealing with other hikers who may have extra food they’re willing to give away, or who might trade something with you in exchange for some of your own supplies

Cooking your own meals in camp using whatever ingredients (such as noodles, peanut butter, tortillas) that you brought along with you

When it comes to hiking, the right gear can make all the difference in terms of comfort, safety, and performance. Check out our expert advice on dressing for hiking to learn about the best types of clothing and footwear for the trail, as well as other tips and tricks for staying comfortable and injury-free.

Pack A Water Filter And Purifier

You’ll be walking for 10-20 miles in a day, so water is vital to your hike. You can’t carry enough of it on your back and expect to survive without some sort of purification system.

There are several options out there for water purification, but the most common ones are filters and purifiers. 

Filters require more maintenance and time to clean, but they don’t use chemicals like iodine or chlorine dioxide that can leave a bad taste in your mouth or cause gastrointestinal problems (which has happened to me). Purifiers use those chemicals though, so they tend not to need as much maintenance. 

I personally use Katadyn’s Hiker Pro filter which uses ceramic media beads that trap bacteria and protozoa from the water source before passing it through an activated carbon filter which eliminates bad tastes and odors from the water and leaves behind any remaining particulate matter such as dirt particles. 

The entire process may take 5 minutes per liter of water if you’re using this particular product – not too long considering how little effort it takes compared with carrying around extra weight!

Water Purification System

Type of SystemProsCons
Water FilterRemoves bacteria, protozoa, and other contaminants from water sourcesMust be cleaned and maintained regularly to avoid clogging
Water PurifierRemoves viruses and bacteria from water sourcesCan be heavy and bulky; may not remove other contaminants such as chemicals or pesticides
Water Treatment Drops or TabletsLightweight and easy to useMust wait for a certain amount of time (usually 30 mins to 4 hours) for water to be safe to drink; may affect taste of water

Document Your Progress With Photos And Videos

Recording your experience is a great way to capture the memories of your hike. You can then share photos and videos with friends and family, and post them on social media. People may be inspired to take on their own hikes after seeing how much fun you had on yours!

Stay In Touch With Family And Friends

Your family and friends are likely to be as excited about your hike as you are. The Appalachian Trail is a pretty big deal, after all! If you want to stay in touch with them, there are several ways to do so.

Social media: You can use social media to keep track of how far along the trail you’ve gone and what it looks like around you. 

Your friends will also be able to see pictures of anything that happens along the way. This can help them feel like they’re with you on your journey, even if they’re not physically present themselves.

Satellite phone: You could also bring along a satellite phone so that people who aren’t familiar with technology can call or text when they want updates from home or hear how things are going on this long hike journey through nature’s beauty!

Plan So That You’re Always Hiking On Full Stomachs

When you’re planning your hike, make sure that you have enough food to last the duration of your trip. You’ll want to plan your meals around what’s available in the specific areas you’ll be hiking through. In general, there are three kinds of foods that hikers eat:

  • Carbohydrates (breads, pasta and other grain-based foods)
  • Proteins (meat and eggs)
  • Fats (butter or oils)

These can be used to create delicious meals that will sustain you on long hikes. Some examples include: peanut butter sandwiches with jelly; ramen noodles with chicken bouillon cubes; tortillas filled with cheese; tuna salad sandwiches; trail mix made from dried fruit and nuts; peanut butter crackers topped with jam or honey

Types of Foods for Hiking

Type of FoodProsCons
Dehydrated or Freeze-Dried MealsLightweight and easy to prepareCan be expensive; may not be as flavorful as freshly cooked meals
Snacks and Trail MixesPortable and easy to eat on the go; provide quick energy boostsMay not provide sustained energy over long periods of time
Fresh Fruits and VegetablesProvide essential vitamins and nutrients needed for an active lifestyleCan be heavy and bulky to carry; may spoil quickly
Jerky and Dried MeatsHigh in protein and provide long-lasting energyCan be high in sodium; not as flavorful as cooked meats
Nut Butter and Energy BarsGreat for quick energy boosts; provide healthy fats and proteinCan be high in sugar and preservatives

Stay Positive And Focused On Your Goal

It’s important to stay positive and focused on your goal. The Appalachian Trail is one of the most challenging hikes in America, so it’s easy to get discouraged and give up when things don’t go as planned.

No matter what happens, try not to let negative thoughts take over. Don’t let other people’s negativity get to you either (although it may seem impossible not to). And remember that even if things are going poorly, they could still turn around at any moment.

Try your best not to let yourself fall into a funk or let doubts creep into your mind—the only thing that will help you achieve success is staying positive!


I hope this guide has helped you learn the ins and outs of hiking the Appalachian Trail. It’s a long journey, but it’s also an incredible experience. 

In addition to all the great advice I’ve shared here, I want to encourage you not to forget about your mental health. 

Make sure that you’re taking care of yourself throughout your hike by eating well, sleeping well (enough), and staying positive! You don’t want something as simple as being tired or bored bringing down your spirits during this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.

Further Reading

If you’re interested in learning more about the Appalachian Trail and hiking in general, check out these resources:

Beginner’s Guide to the Appalachian Trail: This article from Outside Magazine provides an overview of the Appalachian Trail and offers tips for planning a successful hike.

Hike the A.T.: The Appalachian Trail Conservancy’s website has a wealth of resources for hikers, including trail maps, safety tips, and more.

Thru-Hiking the A.T.: If you’re interested in thru-hiking the Appalachian Trail, the Conservancy’s website has information on everything from planning your trip to trail etiquette.


What is the Appalachian Trail?

The Appalachian Trail is a 2200-mile hiking trail that stretches from Georgia to Maine.

How long does it take to thru-hike the Appalachian Trail?

Most thru-hikers take 5-7 months to complete the entire trail, although some accomplish it in as little as 4 months.

Do you need a permit to hike the Appalachian Trail?

No, you don’t need a permit to hike the Appalachian Trail. However, some shelters and campsites require reservations, so it’s important to plan ahead.

What kind of gear do you need to hike the Appalachian Trail?

Hikers on the Appalachian Trail typically carry a backpack, tent or shelter, sleeping bag, stove, cookware, and other essentials such as food, water, and clothing. It’s important to pack light and only bring what you need to avoid excess weight.

What are some safety tips for hiking the Appalachian Trail?

Some safety tips for hiking the Appalachian Trail include staying hydrated, avoiding wildlife, and being prepared for weather changes. It’s also important to hike with a partner or group whenever possible and to let someone know where you’ll be hiking and when you expect to return.